20 Guitar-Driven Classic Rock Songs in Standard Tuning (With Tabs)

classic rock songs in standard tuning

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Classic Rock n Roll is a guitar player’s dream, especially if you don’t like to stray away from standard tuning. It also proves that, like metal, you don’t have to play in lower tunings to produce a heavy sound.

This list provides you with 20 amazing guitar-driven Classic Rock n Roll songs in standard tuning that you can use to continue to develop your craft as a guitarist. Featuring challenging solos, iconic riffs, and beautiful strumming, this list is sure to keep you excited to practice.

I have provided links for the tabs for each song, so you don’t have to waste time searching for good versions of the songs to practice.

Throughout this list, I will provide a bit of history and a short explanation of what to expect from each song. However, if you would rather listen instead of reading, you can check out the entire playlist on YouTube here or head over to Spotify and listen to our playlist:

1. Buddy Guy- Mustang Sally

There is no classic rock without the blues. If you look at many classic rock songs, such as several of Led Zeppelin’s songs, they are often standard blues licks or progressions.

Bands such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and others are often credited with pioneering Rock n Roll. Of course, they made monumental contributions and should be recognized for them.

However, without artists like Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker (who are both also on this list), B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Albert King, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and many others, there is no Rock n Roll.

Mustang Sally is one of those songs that has been covered numerous times by many phenomenal artists. The song was initially composed by Mack Rice in 1965 but gained further popularity with the Wilson Pickett version in 1966.

In 1991, Buddy Guy covered the song along with guitarist Jeff Beck, implementing a more rocking guitar component to the song, featuring an excellent solo beginning at the 3:45 mark.

You can check out the Buddy Guy version of Mustang Sally tabs here.

2. Heart- Crazy On You

Nancy Wilson is one of the best classic rock guitar players in the history of Rock n Roll. Don’t believe me? Just check out the live performance of Crazy On You above.

Crazy On You is the third track from Heart’s 1975 debut album, Dreamboat Annie, which made it into the top 35 on the U.S. charts and higher on many other charts worldwide.

Crazy On You features one of the coolest guitar intros of all time. The song begins with a blazing solo acoustic intro featuring a ton of hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides, making it a perfect song to practice all these techniques.

The song slowly picks up tempo as Wilson begins to strum at the 37-second mark, with the electric guitar and drums joining 45 seconds into the song. The solo beginning at 3:33 into the song is another awesome feature you’ll love to play.

Check out the tabs here.

3. AC/DC- Back In Black

The powerful duo of brothers Angus and Malcolm Young have been instrumental in creating a pure classic rock sound.  AC/DC has dozens of songs that could have easily made this list, but Back in Black, with its guitar-driven, drum-heavy sound, deserves a spot.

From the band’s seventh album of the same name, released in 1980, the song pays homage to Bon Scott, the original singer, who had died earlier that year.

Back in Black is the first album to feature singer Brian Johnson and is by far the band’s most commercially successful album and one of the best-selling albums in music history, with around 50 million copies sold.

Back in Black is the sixth song on the album, which features other mega-hits such as Hells Bells, Shoot to Thrill, and You Shook Me All Night Long. The song begins with one of the most recognizable guitar riffs of all time, which drives the song through its entirety.

Back in Black features a classic Angus Young solo that begins at the 1:49 mark and lasts for nearly forty-five seconds. A second solo sees the song out, starting around the 3:30 mark.

The song is relatively simple to play, relying heavily on AC/DC’s frequent use of standard chord shapes with heavy distortion. You can check out the tabs here.

4. Jimi Hendrix- Fire

Number four on our list features the guitar icon himself, Jimi Hendrix. Several of Hendrix’s songs are played in alternate tunings, but thankfully, for us, Fire is played in standard tuning.

Hendrix is often regarded as one of, if not the greatest, guitarists in Rock n Roll history. His playing style and ability have been an inspiration for generations of guitarists. Gone far too soon, his legacy will continue to inspire for as long as guitars remain an instrument.

Hendrix produced four albums in his short career, three with the Jimi Hendrix Experience and one with the Band of Gypsys. Fire is from his first album, Are You Experienced.

Fire is 2:43 of pure high-energy Rock n Roll and has since become a favorite song of high school and collegiate pep bands.

Around the 1:24 mark, Hendrix gives us an amazing, though short, solo. In terms of Jimi Hendrix’s songs, Fire is on the easier side, though it is still challenging due to its high tempo and slides.

Check out the tabs for Fire here.

5. Mountain- Mississippi Queen

Number five on our list comes from one of the least-known artists, but this song has by far one of the most incredible guitar riffs. While this song has different interpretations of tuning, it is most often played in standard tuning.

Mississippi Queen is the first song on the band’s debut 1970 album, Climbing! The song features an iconic cowbell part that rivals Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper and is non-stop guitar action from start to finish.

While the band isn’t necessarily considered mainstream, Mississippi Queen has been covered often and has remained a popular song since its debut in 1970.

The song is short, coming in at only 2:31, but don’t let the short duration fool you, as it will put your guitar abilities to the test.

The song is full of bends, slides, power chords, and intricate single-string work. It features two awesome guitar parts that weave in and out of playing the same licks, as well as separating into traditional rhythm/lead sections.

Find the tabs to Mississippi Queen here.

6. Led Zeppelin- Heartbreaker

Led Zeppelin is one of the most iconic Classic Rock bands, and many of their songs feature a powerful, guitar-driven style.

There are many excellent Led Zeppelin Songs in Standard Tuning, and Heartbreaker is no exception. Heartbreaker is from the band’s second studio album, released in 1969, Led Zeppelin II.

In terms of Jimmy Page songs, Heartbreaker is more accessible than most other Zeppelin tunes but still features a challenging solo.

The song has a relatively slow tempo and features several opportunities to practice your string bending technique and jumping across several strings, which helps you hone your picking technique.

Heartbreaker is 4:15 of Classic Rock goodness. You can check out the tabs here and get started playing today!

7. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts- I Love Rock and Roll

Originally performed by the band The Arrows, I love Rock and Roll is most associated with Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.

Their version, released as the title track to their 1981 album, was by far their biggest success, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Their version was even inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016.

I Love Rock and Roll features one of the most recognizable guitar riffs of all time and is an unofficial anthem for all Classic Rock lovers.

In terms of overall difficulty, I Love Rock and Roll ranks as one of the easiest songs on the list. It is perfect for beginning guitarists as well as more advanced players simply because it is fun to play.

Crank your gain and volume up, and get started today by following this link for the tabs.

8. Scorpions- The Zoo

Perhaps more known as a Glam Metal of the 1980s, the Scorpion’s roots are in Classic Rock. Founded in Hanover, Germany, in 1965, the band celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016 with a world tour and is still touring.

While not as well-known as some of their other songs, such as Rock You Like A Hurricane, The Zoo is a heavy, guitar-driven, full-on Rock n Roll masterpiece.

The Zoo is the band’s seventh studio album, Animal Magnetism, released in 1980 amid their highest popularity.

Much like I Love Rock and Roll, The Zoo is a relatively simple song, making it ideal for beginners, yet it is fun and engaging enough for all levels of players to enjoy. It is also a perfect song to practice palm muting on the open E string, given that it is slower than most other songs that utilize that technique.

Check out the tabs to The Zoo here.

9. John Lee Hooker- Boom Boom

John Lee Hooker, born in Mississippi in 1917, was a forefather of Rock n Roll, specializing in an electric guitar styling of the Delta Blues that helped set the foundation for the future of Classic Rock.

Many of his songs are still played on Classic Rock stations, such as One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, and have been covered by numerous artists.

Boom Boom, from his 1962 album Burnin’, is one of his most well-known songs and one of the most rocking in his repertoire.

At 2:32, Boom Boom is short and to the point. It is not an overly tricky song, and even the two short solos throughout the song are manageable for most ability levels.

If you are interested in learning a song that was foundational for the Rock n Roll movement, you can check out the tabs here.

10. Deep Purple- Smoke on the Water

One of the first songs many aspiring guitarists will learn, Smoke on the Water, has become a bit cliché. However, despite the potential overplaying of this song, it is still one of the most iconic guitar-driven classic rock songs of all time.

Formed in London, England, in 1968, Deep Purple has moved its way through several styles of rock over the years, but they are best known for their 1972 release of Smoke on the Water from their sixth studio album, Machine Head.

Smoke on the Water has often been listed as one of the greatest guitar riffs ever created. The song is simple from the intro to the solo, which is why it is one of the first songs many players learn.

However, like many other great Rock n Roll songs, do not mistake simplicity for being boring or unimportant. Sometimes the most straightforward songs are among the best songs to play, and Smoke on the Water is a prime example.

Check out the tabs here.

11. Tom Petty- Runnin’ Down a Dream

Over his incredible career, Tom Petty created some of the most iconic songs in the genre of Rock n Roll, both with the Heartbreakers and in his solo work, such as Mary Jane’s Last Dance, Free Fallin, and American Girl. Runnin’ Down a Dream is no exception.

The guitar-driven Rock n Roll classic is the fifth song on Petty’s first solo release, Full Moon Fever, released in 1989. The album peaked at number 3 on the U.S. Billboard 200 charts.

Runnin’ Down a Dream, which legendary guitarist Mike Campbell co-wrote, begins with a primarily chromatic/open string walk down and is one of the most fun songs to play on this list.

The song features excellent electric guitar work coupled with beautiful acoustic strumming parts and is capped off with a killer solo that begins around the 3:00 minute mark and lasts for well over a minute as the song fades out.

Runnin’ Down a Dream is the perfect song to practice numerous guitar skills. Check out the tabs here and get started today.

12. Eddie Money- Two Tickets to Paradise

Number twelve on our list has a similar feel to Tom Petty’s song, and while it is one of the more subdued songs on the list, the guitar work throughout the 3:57 duration is impeccable.

Two Tickets to Paradise is the opening track on Money’s 1977 debut album and is one of the biggest hits of his career.

The song begins with a syrupy-sounded guitar riff utilizing numerous slides, hammer-ons, and hammer-offs. Underlying this is the main riff that features a significant amount of ghost notes.

The chorus beefs up the guitar with overdriven chords, followed by the opening riff again, which is the song’s signature sound, which blends into an excellent solo beginning around the 1:45 mark and lasts for about forty-five seconds.

Two Tickets to Paradise is a fun, upbeat, and high-tempo song that provides plenty of opportunities to practice numerous essential guitar skills.

Check out the tabs here.

13. The Doors- Roadhouse Blues

Perhaps best known for lead singer Jim Morrison, who passed away at the young as of 27, The Doors featured other highly talented musicians, including guitarist Robby Krieger.

Many of The Door’s songs feature a heavy keyboard presence, and while Roadhouse Blues certainly has this element, the song is guitar-driven goodness that is one of my favorite songs to play on this list.

The song opens with heavy strumming on the open E with intermittent chromatic hammer-ons on the A and D strings. At the 1:35 mark, Krieger blasts into an energy-fueled solo that lasts for about forty seconds.

Overall, the song is one of the easiest on the list, and even the solo is manageable with a little practice, making this a perfect song for beginner players.

Check out the tabs for Roadhouse Blues here.

14. Boston- More Than a Feeling

Boston features several guitar-driven songs, and More Than a Feeling is a perfect example. Formed in Boston, Massachusetts, in the late 60s/early 70s, the band has gone through many line-up changes and legal disputes and has only released six studio albums between 1976 and 2013.

The Band is best known for its debut album, which featured several of their greatest hits, including More Than a Feeling.

The song begins with mellow guitar picking and a subdued bass line, followed by light drums and vocals. However, at the thirty-seven-second mark, the heavy-hitting guitar wails onto the scene and helps drive the song for its 4:45 duration.

Boston features some of the most unique and iconic guitar tones in the genre, and while you might not be able to recreate this tone exactly, More Than a Feeling is still a fantastic song to learn.

You can check out the tabs for More Than a Feeling here.

15. The Doobie Brothers- China Grove

The Doobie Brothers burst onto the Rock n Roll scene in 1970 and have been rocking the airways ever since.

Formed in San Jose, California, the band has seen success and has several songs that still play on Classic Rock stations, including China Grove.

China Grove is from the band’s third studio album, The Captain and Me, released in 1973. This album also features their popular song, Long Train Runnin’.

China Grove begins with the legendary guitar riff that has helped make the Doobie Brothers a household name in Classic Rock, including extensive ghost note strumming.

The song has a runtime of 3:15, and with a high tempo, it is fun to play. Around 2:23, the guitar solo cuts through the iconic riff before ending with their famous chorus.

China Grove is a fun song for all ability levels. Get started today with the tabs here.

16. Muddy Waters- Mannish Boy

Another blues legend instrumental in forging the genre of Rock n Roll, Muddy Waters, has several iconic songs that set the foundation of players and music for generations to come.

Four of Muddy Waters’ songs are listed in the Rock and Roll hall of fame, including Mannish boy, and he is in both the Blues Foundation and Rock and Roll Hall of fame.

The song was initially recorded in 1955 and has since become one of the most recognizable guitar licks in music history. Although relatively simple, it is enjoyable to play and a great song to work on while playing guitar and singing simultaneously.

If you want to try it, check out the tabs here.

17. Kansas- Carry on Wayward Son

Right up there with Dust in the Wind as the band’s most famous song, Carry on Wayward Son, is a guitar player’s dream to play.

Formed in Kansas, Kansas began their long career in the early 70s and has produced 16 studio albums, with their most recently released in 2020.

Carry on Wayward Son, the first song off the band’s fourth album released in 1976, begins with vocals only before drums and guitar kick in at the fourteen-second mark with the band’s most iconic guitar riff.

Although the main riff is not overly complicated, it is one of the more challenging songs on the list due to its fast tempo and impressive solos, the second of which begins around the 2:48 mark and lasts for almost fifty seconds.

If you want to give Carry on Wayward Son a shot, head here for the tabs.

18. Eagles- Life in the Fast Lane

One of the most well-known rock bands in history, the Eagles have produced many hits over the years, but few, with perhaps the exception of Hotel California, is as guitar-driven as Life in the Fast Lane.

If you are anything like Jeff Bridges’ character in the Big Lebowski, you are not a big fan of the Eagles. However, even if you don’t like the Eagles, you will enjoy playing this song as a guitar player.

Coming from the band’s fifth studio album, Life in the Fast Lane begins with a great guitar lick that also serves as the chorus riff. The verse and pre-chorus guitar strumming is easy, making the song accessible for many ability levels.

The solo, which begins around the 2:12 mark, is by far the most challenging aspect of this song, but compared to several other solos on this list, it is not too difficult.

Check out the tabs for Life in the Fast Lane here.

19. Heart- Barracuda

The second Heart song on this list is one of the more challenging.

Barracuda is the first track off of the band’s third studio album, and it is a whirlwind of guitar mastery. What makes this song particularly challenging is that there is a time signature change from 4/4 to 3/4 during the verses, which is quite difficult to master.

The song’s intro also has some interesting harmonics, which can take some serious practice to master. Lastly, although fairly short, the solo is fast and will take some practice to nail down.

Check out the tabs here to get started with Barracuda today.

20. AC/DC- Thunderstruck

One of the most iconic guitar intros of all time and one you can still often hear at sporting venues to pump up the crowd.

Thunderstruck is from AC/DC’s 1990 release, The Razor’s Edge, and has become one of their most famous songs.

Thunderstruck is a great song to practice single-string technique work, and if nothing else, it is just a fun song to play!

Check out the tabs to Thunderstruck here.

Closing Thoughts

Classic Rock n Roll is one of the best genres of music for guitar players to dive into. There are thousands of songs in standard tuning that can be used to develop various techniques. Not to mention, these songs are just flat-out fun to play!

I hope you have enjoyed this list, and maybe you’ve even discovered some new artists to add to your listening and playing library.